Does culture play a role in drafting CRM strategy?


I will try to answer with an illustration.

Birthday congrats via CRM system database

Some CRM experts may devise a CRM strategy and system as such to send automatic, yet personalized, birthday congratulation emails to customers (even to B2B customer’s contact persons if deemed appropriate). Such e-mails may carry an incentive, a special, a coupon or a digital gift. This is a brilliant idea if it is not privacy breaching & in accordance with opt-in & op-out regulations in some countries  (like West European and North American countries)


However, in Middle Eastern & Far Eastern countries, people may have a different notion of birthday congratulations and/or celebrations for adults. For instance, and according to my experience as a former manager of a full-registration based digital business aimed at international freelance linguists, Asians of the Far East (Japan, Korea and China), specifically females, prefer not to enter their birthday dates on online forms at all. I actually had to change the birthday form-field into “voluntary” instead of “compulsory”, to allow some members to register their full professional information with ease and a peace of mind!

Also, birthdays are not widely celebrated in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) area among native inhabitants of countries such as Saudi Arabia or the UAE, due to religious motives. So, would sending such a “thoughtful” e-mail gesture be applauded or would it rather backfire and be viewed as offensive?

I would go about it safely and say “ yes”,  in some area’s, culture does play a role. One must be wary of such sensitivities.


Hush! SHUT UP & let your deeds speak of your success at work!

Do I agree? No, I don’t agree (yet), because this really and strongly depends on three things:

  1. You.
  2. Your company culture.
  3. The dominant culture of  the society you are in.

You are the best judge of the first item, “you”, so I won’t be covering that. I will concentrate more on the other two.

How can culture be so determinant? Well, it may not. You may actually be blessed by working at a company with a thriving, transparent and fair participatory work culture that holds organization of work and a fair reward-system high, in which your work will never go unnoticed or unrewarded. Add to that a dominant and tolerant culture of people, peers, customers and stake-holders that makes the best match to your character, behaviour and expectations! Voila! You’re free to “be you” and say it too!


But you could also be operating in a hard/harsh corporate culture in which everybody is either “barking” at each other or boasting about their achievements to each other. You may have to adapt to this and make your voice heard more often (and leave the barking for dogs, will ya).

I am a geniusDIsgruntled-employee

Also, depending on the dominant culture of your country of work, whether it is a heterogeneous (multicultural) one or a homogeneous one, a high power distance culture or a low power distance one, an individualistic society or more collectivist in nature, talking about what you grandiosely accomplished at your job or putting your “demands” on table may be viewed in different ways from “wonderful”, “normal”, “unnecessary” and “boastful but acceptable” to “arrogant and repulsive”.

In Western European cultures (German, Dutch, English, Scandanavian, for instance), it is not exactly valued that you go around boasting about what you can or what you did using “I” too often, but it is tolerated with distastefulness. And I believe that China, Korea and Japan have a comparable culture of putting team achievements above individual achievements. In other cultures like the US or Italy, for instance, it may be slightly deviant or exactly the opposite, assuming you are just telling the truth and you’re entitled to self-promotion and well-deserved ego-boost. No harm there!


In the US or Europe, this scene may actually end with a hand shake and a smile (or not), without jeopardizing the professional work relationship or taking the fight outside!

In Japan and Korea, CEO's can be extremely apologetic, also in public.

In Japan, CEO’s can be extremely humble and apologetic, also in public.

Off course , there are also other extreme illustrations of how culture can be “shockingly different”. People in Italy, for instance, believe it or not, have always liked Silvio Berlusconi, the famous business man, media tycoon and former prime minister despite his widely covered long litanies of scandals and stubborn non-aging aura of vanity and arrogance for a reason, they only know, and the rest of the world (especially Northern Europeans) has to respect.

In the US, they have a common saying “if you have got it, flaunt it”, meaning “forget about false modesty, if you have it, just show it and enjoy showing it off”.

While it all seems too tedious and tiring to make up the balance whether it is better to speak up or shut up at work, you and I can make it much simpler by doing one thing in any event and in the right order, and that is: knowing the culture FIRST!